M.B. Post chef David LeFevre helped to turn the seasonal restaurant he co-owns with Mike Simms & Simms Restaurant Group into a South Bay dining destination while still satisfying locals. We spoke with him at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival, and LeFevre shared insights that hint at why he’s been so successful in his culinary career.
David LeFevre [Le Favor]. Why does everybody pronounce your name Le-fev?
Because that’s the proper way to say it. Unfortunately, my family over the years has screwed it up. My sister and I were almost going to start pronouncing it the correct way, but we were like, “All our relatives will think we’re too chichi.”
Was it a given that you’d become a chef, or did you consider other careers?
I did consider other careers right off the bat. I went to engineering school at the University of Wisconsin, but I was cooking the whole time. I always loved cooking when I was younger, and I finally made a leap of faith for it.
Do you consider signature dishes a positive?
Since I’m getting a little bit older and maybe a little bit more mature, you have to respect your guests’ intentions in respects to having the dish that they love. In the meantime, you have to keep continuing to be creative and providing new items for your guests who want new items. For me, the smart thing to do is make sure that – if I got rid of our bacon cheddar biscuits, we would piss off more people than we would make happy – with the new dish that we did. I’m not going to change those, but there are dishes, like our lamb belly, that we change, or the preparation of our seafood dishes. When you have a menu that has 45 items, you can change 30 of those, or 20 of those, and it’s still a very new, very fresh menu. I think it’s good to have menu items that are staples in a sense. They’re staples because people like ‘em.
What is your top selling dish?
Our top selling dish is our biscuits, number one. Brussels sprouts, number two. And our green beans, number three.
Why do you think that’s the case?
Because they taste so damn good…Take the word “damn” out of that.
What kind of music do like to listen to while cooking, if any?
I always like to listen to music that matches what I’m doing. When I’m rolling out pasta, I always listen to the soundtrack to “Big Night.” Stanley [Tucci] did a great job in that movie, and the music he picked for that soundtrack is great, so I always listen to that when I’m doing pasta. When we’re doing something funky or edgy, we’ll listen to something like the Ramones, or some punk. But I love all types of music. It’s really what you’re in the mood for. Here, when you’re doing this event, I love having interaction with guests. I love having upbeat music that I can kind of just bop to and have fun with. I don’t listen to one thing. It’s always something that I’m up for. Rarely is it hardcore, never hardcore. Never heavy metal.
What’s your favorite part about working in restaurants?
Charlie Trotter put it in really great terms. He said, “You know, you’re involved in a life where you have wonderful flavors, wonderful colors, wonderful textures, but most importantly, you have wonderful people.” When you’re in the position to hire the crew and the team that you want at the restaurant, you’re in the position to surround yourself with really wonderful, incredible people. That’s the best thing for me, being able to come to work and be surrounded by really passionate people, young cooks that really want to do great things and want to learn, and look up to you for guidance. Hopefully you can provide them that, but it’s the people. Going in and being able to tease a new line cook who doesn’t know how to pronounce persimmons, and he says persimmions. Or being able to go over to your fish cook, like Alex here, who’s helping us, and be able to say, “In six months, your cooking has dramatically changed, and you’re so much better at it,” and show her encouragement, and show her she’s improving. It’s that. It’s the people and the relationships. Or being able to go with Steve [Samson] and Zach [Pollack] and say hello to them at their restaurant. Or come here and play with Sherry Yard. It’s a community of just wonderful people. And, you know, it’s the wonderful people who really excel, the good people who have good intentions and are humble and who are in it for the right reasons. Hanging out with those people is amazing. It’s really amazing…And I like to eat.
What would you like to be known for as a chef?
Hopefully people think that for the restaurant we do soulful, handcrafted, artisanal food. As a chef, I hope people know that I’m serious about food, but I love lighthearted, gregarious fun…As a chef, you strive all your life to be a good chef with food, and then you become an owner and you realize, not only do I have to be good with food, but I also have to be encouraging with my crew, and find out ways to motivate them, find out ways to have them grow. If I would hang it up today, my crew would say, “Chef was a great leader and always encouraged me to do my best.” And if my crew said, “I never thought I could do that well,” then that would be a compliment. “I never thought I could be that good,” and I pushed them to do that, then that would be great.